Last week a group of A level English Literature students attended a performance of Othello at the Playhouse. Ellen Beaufoy and Liv Robinson review the performance here:
From the emoji balloons at Othello and Desdemona’s wedding party, to the “f*** off sergeants” drinking song and the characters’ edgy trainers, Richard Twyman and his team have bought this production of Shakespeare’s Othello into contemporary contexts. The modern allusions even stretched to the tone and delivery of Shakespeare’s dialogue, which was somewhat conversational, rather than the melodramatic and exclamatory manner that would be expected. While it could be argued that this directorial decision may have undermined the profundity and impact of the characters’ speeches, it can also be said that this tone suited the younger demographic of the cast and the more modern visual and aural landscape. Moreover, it allowed speeches, such as Emilia’s soliloquy about the inequality within marriage, to resonate more strongly with contemporary issues.
Another interesting choice was the use of blinding white lights and a microphone hanging down from the middle of the stage for when the news was announced. The walls of white lights made the stage seem a lot smaller, and gave the scene an air of the dystopia. The use of pure white light when announcing the news was an interesting choice considering that a prominent theme of the play was nature of truth. One of Iago’s attempts to justify his manipulation was to argue that what he was recommending to Cassio was the truth in that it would actually have been an effective way of getting his position back from Othello, had Iago not planted the seed of doubt in Othello’s mind. The white light may have mirrored the fact that the truth at the start of the play was unsullied by Iago’s twisting of it. Later on in the play, a combination of murky blue and orange light was used, representing the breakdown of truth and reality.